Written by: Alex Green
Charles Dickens once wrote about fabled orchards where the fruits were as shiny as jewels. However, it’s hard not to think that if the author had walked across the apple orchard and up the steps to the house where Golden Curtain were recording their debut album, he surely would have remarked that the real jewels were the songs themselves, ringing through the open air.
Recorded in singer Andrew McKenzie’s sustainably built home in Hawkes Bay, Golden Curtain’s English Tuning is a breezy, organic record of effortless melodies, crunchy choruses and straight up rock and roll smarts.
A New Zealand supergroup of sorts, Golden Curtain finds McKenzie (Grand Prix) joining forces with former Garageland drummer Andrew Gladstone and bassist Matt Baker. Seasoned players all, so it’s no surprise that English Tuning sounds so polished. “Breathe Easy” combines the soaring harmonies of The Byrds with an aching beauty; the spry “No One Home” brings to mind The Chills and the catchy groove of “Everything’s Fine” is hard to resist. Elsewhere, the winningly percussive “Be Around” jangles mightily away, “Tumbleweed,” has an open wounded wistfulness and the country-edged “Captain Cook” boasts one of the most infectious harmonica breaks in recent memory.
What’s most refreshing about this album is its sonic cohesion–it plays seamlessly from front to back the way a real record should. The punchy “Breathe Easy” kicks things off with McKenzie admitting, “It’s been so long since I made it through the night,” and fittingly the proceedings close with the battered glory of “Ceiling” where the singer faces the cold hard stare of the morning, and confesses he’s impatient for the night to come. It’s a conundrum, sure, but it also perfectly encapsulates just how ironic life can be.
Golden Curtain have an effortlessness about them—a flowing confluence of rootsy swagger and textured pop majesty.
One of the year’s very best.